January 6, 2019 – Willamette Pass

Sunday’s forecast looked to be promising earlier in the week, but that changed on Saturday, and neither Dan or I had real high expectations of a great day. Since we’d already made plans to head to the Pass, we figured it was worth the short drive up highway 58 to see how the day would develop. The snow phone was reporting 5 inches overnight, which was better than the snotels, so the morning was filled with cautious optimism. It was snowing hard when we arrived at the area, and continued to snow all morning long.

Dan heading out to a local stash

We ended up catching the first chair with Jensen and a couple other locals, as well as Joe who we met up with in the patrol room. The turns were pretty sweet, with about 8-10 inches of fresh on both the upper and lower mountain. We continued to pound out runs on both the front and backsides of the hill until about 11:30, then headed down for a quick lunch and to grab the skins for a little sidecountry action.

Turns outside the ski area boundary

Joe had to leave a little earlier that we did, so he stayed at the Pass, and Dan and I headed out on skins to check out one of our favorite local spots. Switching over to skins is always a good feeling after riding the lifts for a few hours, and the snow was light and deep underfoot — around 16-18 inches deep. A short time later, we were in position to drop in. After making a couple of ski cuts, it was time to open in up for some untracked powder turns…

Dan ripping the pow

Matt about to enter the whiteroom

The powder was some of the best in recent memory, and we both were stoked at the bottom of the run. It didn’t take long to change over to skins and head back up to do it all again…

Dan on the uptrack

Skinning outside the area during a snowstorm is always so quiet and serene. Less than a mile away hundreds of skiers are ripping it up and the lifts are noisily spinning, while outside the area the pace is calm, steady and quiet. We reached the top in short order, and enjoyed a quick break to drink a beer and transition before dropping in for more turns.

Matt back up top

Beverage of choice for the day

Our second line was as good as the first, and faceshots were had all the way down. We ended up making a third lap before it was time to head back to the car, and it continued puking on us all afternoon. By the time we worked our way back to the area, there was 20 inches of fresh snow on the ground.

More early January pow turns

Parting shot

We had enough time left to make a couple more runs in the area before the lifts shut down for good, and both of our legs were pretty burned by the end of the day. Sitting in the car in the parking lot, munching on chips and salsa, it continued to snow heavily. Neither of us could believe how good the day turned out to be, and it just goes to show, you never know what it’ll be like unless you go!

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December 1, 2018 – Willamette Pass

After a super dry spring, summer and fall, snow falling in the mountains was a welcome sight. The forecast was calling for around 12 inches of fresh, so Dan, Joe and I made plans to head to the Pass on the first day of December and check out the conditions. I met Dan at his house, and we headed up the highway to meet Joe, who had spent the night near the pass in his pickup truck. After a quick pit stop at the snowpark, we pulled into the Pass to take care of a few patrol related items.

Opening the gate in the early morning

Parked at the patrol room

After we got our patrol obligations taken care of, it was time to head out. There was about a foot of fresh snow at the base, and it felt good to have the skis and skins on the feet and to be breaking trail again. By the time we headed up Timber Glades and made it to the base of High Lead, there was about 18 inches of snow for a base – definitely more than we were expecting given the way the recent storms have fizzled in comparison to the predicted forecasts.

Dan on the skin track

We worked our way up to the top of High Lead, and decided the snow was so good that we’d run laps on the frontside for a little bit. Our first turns took us right back down High Lead, and then we skinned back up and checked out Charlie’s. Both runs were awesome, and skied really well.

Matt on Good Time

Dan enjoying December turns on High Lead

With two laps in the bag, we decided it was worth the investment to make one more lap on the front of the mountain before heading over and checking out the backside. As an added bonus, we were able to reuse our skin track for a fourth time. The third time down the front was equally as good as the first two…

Exiting the whiteroom

Joe skiing down Charlie

I was surfing the snow on my homemade Jamie Lynn 160 Lib Tech split, which I really like in corn or a few inches of fresh snow. It definitely doesn’t have the float of my powder splits, and was a bit more work to keep afloat on, but as the pics below show, it didn’t hold me back too much…

More December pow turns

Cruising down Willamette’s frontside

With four runs in the bag on the front, it was time to head over to Peak 2 and check things out. We stopped at the top of EPA and chatted with Quinn (a fellow patroller and friend) who had come up with a friend and was getting ready to drop into Timburr. We all agreed the area was looking good and were cautiously optimistic they may be able to get open soon if the weather cooperated.

Heading to Peak 2

We made the short skin up and over to Peak 2, and the snow stake was showing 30 inches. To our amazement, the couple we had talked to in the snowpark earlier and who we had watched skin over to Peak 2 while we were lapping the front hadn’t skied Northern. We pulled out a couple of beers to celebrate….

My beverage of choice for the day

The coverage on Northern looked really good, and the nuisance trees that were there a few weeks ago had been cut by the area, so the lower half of the run was baby butt smooth. We set up to take a few pictures, and dropped in.

Joe enjoying turns on the first day of December

There was probably 18-20 inches of fresh snow on top of the residual, and although it was slightly wind affected, it was pretty sweet. At the bottom, it began to snow again, and we set  to work punching in a track back to the top of the hill for one more lap on the back.

Joe and Dan skinning back up

The second lap was just as fine as the first, and Dan snapped a few pictures of me near the bottom with his cell phone. I tried pulling a wheelie at the bottom, and to my surprise the shot actually turned out. Meow.

Wheelie at the bottom of Northern

With 5 runs in the bag, we were starting to get a bit tired, and agreed it was time to head over to the front for a ski out to the truck. We skinned up and over Peak 2, and staged at the top of EPA for a final run on the front. We chatted with the area owner, who was track packing down some of the snow (a good sign for a future opening), and then set off down Success, which looked good.

Matt atop EPA

After we each hit a couple of rocks, we nixed that idea and worked our way through the trees to Timburr, and enjoyed a rock-free run from there. We finished the day off by exiting the lower mountain on By George, making powder turns right down the the truck and patrol room.

Back at the patrol room

Sitting in the patrol room after skiing 5000 feet, while drinking a beer and enjoying some chips and salsa was a welcome treat. As we loaded up our gear in the truck and got ready to hit the road, we all agreed it really looked like the area could open in the next wee. After last year’s miserable season, that was a welcome sight!

Almost ready to hit the road

 

 

November 16, 2018 – Mt Hood, Palmer Glacier

The days in November were starting to slip away, and I needed to get some turns in. The weather forecast was calling for sun on Friday, so I headed out solo since both Dan and Joe had skied the week before while I was stuck at work. The drive up I5 went smoothly, and I soon found myself cruising up Highway 26 with Mt Hood poking through the clouds…

Mt Hood from Highway 26

A few minutes later, I pulled into the climber’s lot at Timberline and was the only car there until a friendly hiker pulled up while I was organizing my gear. The mountain was looking pretty, with a thin coat of new snow still remaining from the previous week’s storm.

 

Mt Hood from below Timberlilne

Once my boards were strapped to the pack, it was time to set out on the road up to Silcox. I stopped at the usual spot to snap a picture of the mountain, and then continued on up. The road had a few inches of snow on it, but I booted for a quarter mile or so before switching to skins.

Mt Hood in mid-November

Looking back at Timberline Lodge

I made good time up to Silcox, and was happy to have been able to skin the entire way. After working my way over a few bands of rocks, I was out onto the Palmer. The Palmer looked similar to when Dan, Joe and I had skied it in October, but had definitely melted down since then. I stopped for a couple of minutes at the top to eat a snack and snap a few pictures.

Looking down from the top of the Palmer

The new snow from the previous week looked pretty skiable above the Palmer, but there was a heavy cloud layer flirting around 9500 feet. I decided to head up, not wanting to pass on the opportunity to ski some wild snow above the area boundary. As I skinned up, the clouds below continued to creep up the mountain, ultimately engulfing the bottom of the Palmer lift.

Self shot above the clouds

The snow on the southeastern exposure was starting to corn nicely, so I climbed up to about 9000 feet and decided to call it there, given the dense clouds above me and the fact that the coverage above was pretty sparse. I pulled the tripod out of my pack, snapped a few shots of myself with the remote timer, and then hung out in the sun and enjoyed a beer I’d brought with me.

Looking out from my high point

Stoker Red Ale — the beer of choice for the day

I scrambled across a few rocks and got a good view of Illumination Rock and out towards the Zigzag Glacier, where some pretty fun summer turns were had a few months earlier. The skiing looked decent out that way, but given the aspect and the likelihood that the snow would be firm, I decided to pass and ski down the way I came up.

Illumination Rock

Rime ice formation on Mt Hood

Being solo, I didn’t get any action shots on the ski down, but the turns were pretty fun. The snow above the Palmer was excellent corn, as was the first half of the Palmer. From the mid-station down, I had to ski in the dense clouds, which was quite a contrast to the sunny slopes between 8000 and 9000 feet. After the Palmer, I was able to link snow fingers down to Silcox, and then ski the road to within a couple hundred vertical of the parking lot. Once I was back at the car, I hung out for a little bit to enjoy some late season chips and garden salsa before heading home.

Enjoying some late season salsa in the parking lot

All things considered, it was a pretty great November ski, and worth taking the day off work. Now however, it’s time for the powder to fly…..:)

October 7, 2018 – Mt Hood, Palmer Snowfield

The stoke for fresh snow was running high, and with October turns looming for the weekend, dreams of powder turns from 10,000 feet back down to the lodge at Timberline were in my mind. Unfortunately, the storm came in warmer and drier than forecast, depositing only a few inches of fresh snow at the higher elevations of the mountain. Not to be denied, Dan, Joe and I made the best of it, and met up on Sunday morning. After meeting Joe at the Cop Shop, we headed up I5 and pulled into the climbers lot around 8:30 am. 

A light blanket of October snow on Mt Hood

Unlike the previous months of August and September, the air had a chill to it and the skies were a cloudy gray instead of sunny blue. After milling about the parking lot for a few minutes sorting gear, we shouldered packs and headed up the road towards Silcox.   

Looking out over Timberline

It didn’t take too long to reach Silcox, and once we did it was time to start up the dry Palmer Canyon. A few hundred feet above Silcox, a several hundred foot long “snow” patch allowed booting on snow. A couple of snowboarders were descending as we were heading up, and the firm, icy snow made the turns look like shit. After chatting with them for a bit about conditions up higher, we continued up.

Joe climbing the “snow” patch above Silcox

Dan hiking below the top of the Palmer

As we neared the top of the Palmer, the sun tried to poke through the clouds, and the icy firm snow appeared to soften ever so slightly. After a few more minutes of hiking, we topped out at the top lift shack and the impressive views looking out to the south.

The view from the top of the Palmer

The skies started to sock in higher on the mountain as we readied ourselves to drop in, and soon started to spit snow. I dropped in first, found my way through the rocks and onto the snowfield proper, and set up to snap a few photos of the skiers as they came down. Joe came down first, followed by Dan…

Joe skiing the Palmer

Dan scoring some October turns

We skied down a bit further, and Dan grabbed the camera and snapped a few photos of me. The snow quality was firm but softening, and so smooth that it skied awesome. We skied down to the “road” at the mid-station, and all of us were stoked on the conditions.

October shredding on the Palmer

At the bottom, everyone agreed another lap was in order, so we threw the boards on the packs and booted back up. The weather held nicely, and soon we were enjoying another round of October turns. This time the snow was even softer, and skied like perfect corn…

October turns on the Palmer

Matt scoring turns on a second lap

At the bottom, it was time for a quick break and a well earned cold beverage. My beer of choice for the day was a Fresh Squeezed IPA from Deschutes Brewing Co. After discussion, we agreed it was drink half now, head up for a third lap, and drink the remainder when we got back down….

Beer

Our third climb and ski went quickly, and the turns down on the third lap were probably the best of the day. Once we were back down to the beers, we loaded up our gear and skied down the “road” to the mid-station in preparation for the down climbing to the “snow” patch below…

Dan and Joe at the bottom of the Palmer

Dan at the end of the “road”

The hike below the mid-station down to the “snow” patch below was longer than all of us remembered on the climb up. Eventually we worked our way down to the “snow” and it was time to “ski” again. The turns were challenging, and we skied down way to far — all the way to the end of the filthy dirty snow. At the bottom, I looked at my base and it was in definite need of some TLC.

Hiking down below the mid-station

Skiing the “snow” patch down towards Silcox

At the bottom of the patch, we collected what was left of our skis, loaded them onto packs, and made the hike back down to the parking lot below. At the car, we enjoyed some of the season’s offerings, including fresh garden salsa, salad and of course another round of cold beers.

Snowcats ready to go when the new season arrives

Apres at the car

Sitting at the car, watching the fog roll in and out, we all agreed it was an excellent day of October turns. Furthermore, we all agreed it’s time for the snow to fly and for the new season to begin!